Impaired Driving: Research & Activities
Every day, almost 30 people in the United States die in motor vehicle crashes that involve an alcohol-impaired driver. This amounts to one death every 48 minutes.1 The annual cost of alcohol-related crashes totals more than $51 billion.2
Thankfully, there are effective measures that can help prevent injuries and deaths from alcohol-impaired driving.
A systematic review conducted by CDC researchers on behalf of the Task Force on Community Preventive Services concluded that well-executed multi-component interventions with community mobilization are effective in reducing alcohol-related crashes. The interventions included most or all of following: responsible beverage service training, other efforts to limit alcohol access, sobriety checkpoints, and a strong local media component. Based on these findings, the Task Force recommended that multi-component interventions with community mobilization be widely implemented.
- Guide to Community Preventive Services. Reducing alcohol-impaired driving: multicomponent interventions with community mobilization [cited 2009 Nov 6].
- Shults RA, Elder RW, Nichols J, et al. Effectiveness of Multicomponent Programs with Community Mobilization for Reducing Alcohol-Impaired Driving. American Journal of Preventive Medicine 2009; 37(4):360–371.
Ignition interlocks are installed in vehicles to prevent operation by anyone with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) above a specified level (usually 0.02% – 0.04%). CDC reviewed the effectiveness of ignition interlocks programs to reduce alcohol-impaired driving recidivism and alcohol-related crashes. The review, conducted on behalf of the Task Force on Community Preventive Services, drew on findings from a review of 15 scientific studies of ignition interlocks. It concluded that ignition interlocks are associated with a median 67% reduction in re-arrest rates for alcohol-impaired driving. Based on strong evidence of the effectiveness of interlocks in reducing re-arrest rates while they are on the vehicle, the Task Force recommended that ignition interlock programs be more widely implemented. They also noted that the public health benefits of the intervention are currently limited by the small proportion of offenders who install interlocks in their vehicles. More widespread and sustained use of interlocks among this population could have a substantial impact on alcohol-related crashes.
- Guide to Community Preventive Services. Reducing alcohol-impaired driving: ignition interlocks. [cited 2009 Nov 6]. Available at URL: www.thecommunityguide.org/mvoi/AID/ignitioninterlocks.html
- Willis C, Lybrand S, Bellamy N. Alcohol ignition interlock programmes for reducing drink driving recidivism. The Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews 2004, Issue 3.
At CDC’s Injury Center, we work to translate science into effective programs and policies that prevent motor vehicle deaths and injuries, and minimize the consequences of injuries when they occur.
Some college administrators have suggested that minimum legal drinking age (MLDA) laws contribute to the problem of underage alcohol use and that lowering the MLDA could reduce binge drinking among underage students. Two systematic reviews conducted on behalf of the Task Force on Community Preventive Services provide evidence to refute such claims.
One review assessed the effect of both raising and lowering the MLDA on fatal and nonfatal crashes. Raising the MLDA reduced crashes among 18-20 year old drivers by a median of 16%, while lowering the MLDA increased crashes among the targeted group by a median of 10%.
The other review assessed the effect of programs to enforce laws prohibiting retail sale of alcohol to minors through the use of retailer compliance checks. These enhanced enforcement programs reduced sales to underage or youthful-looking decoys by a median of 42%. The programs were effective in on-premises (e.g., bars) and off-premises (e.g., liquor stores) establishments, as well as in rural and urban communities, and among different ethnic and socioeconomic groups.
- Guide to Community Preventive Services. Reducing alcohol-impaired driving: maintaining current minimum legal drinking age laws. [cited 2009 Nov 6]. Available at URL: http://www.thecommunityguide.org/mvoi/AID/mlda-laws.html
- Shults RA, Elder RW, Sleet DA, et al. Reviews of evidence regarding interventions to reduce alcohol-impaired driving. American Journal of Preventive Medicine 2001;21(4S):66–88.
- Guide to Community Preventive Services. Reducing excessive alcohol use: enhanced enforcement of laws prohibiting sales to minors. [cited 2009 Nov 6]. Available at URL: www.thecommunityguide.org/alcohol/lawsprohibitingsales.html
- Elder RW, Lawrence B, Janes G, Brewer RD, Toomey TL, Hingson RW, Naimi TS, Wing SG, Fielding J. Enhanced enforcement of laws prohibiting sale of alcohol to minors: systematic review of effectiveness for reducing sales and underage drinking. Transportation Research E-Circular 2007;Issue E-C123:181-8. Available at URL: http://onlinepubs.trb.org/onlinepubs/circulars/ec123.pdf
A recent analysis by CDC researchers found that an estimated 2.5 million adult drivers with children living in their households reported that they had recently driven while under the influence of alcohol. The analysis also showed that, for adults in all age groups, the presence of children in the home does not decrease drivers’ likelihood of alcohol-impaired driving. These findings suggest that many children live with adults who engage in alcohol-impaired driving. The results highlight the need for increased use of proven, evidence-based strategies to reduce the number of alcohol-impaired drivers on the roads. In addition, it is important for adults who transport children to make a daily commitment to not drink and drive and consistently use proper safety belts, or restraints.9
- Boyd R, Kresnow M, Dellinger AM. Alcohol-impaired driving and children in the household. Family and Community Health 2009; 32(2): 167–174.
A systematic review conducted by CDC researchers on behalf of the Task Force on Community Preventive Services concluded that sobriety checkpoints reduce alcohol-related crashes. Sobriety checkpoints are traffic stops where law enforcement officers systematically select drivers to assess their level of alcohol impairment. The goal of sobriety checkpoints is to deter alcohol-impaired driving by increasing drivers’ perceived risk of arrest. Results indicated that sobriety checkpoints consistently reduced alcohol-related crashes, typically by about 20 percent. The results were similar regardless of how the checkpoints were conducted, for short-term "blitzes," or when checkpoints were used continuously for several years. This suggests that the effectiveness of checkpoints does not diminish over time.
- Guide to Community Preventive Services. Reducing alcohol-impaired driving: sobriety checkpoints. [cited 2009 Nov 3]. Available at URL: www.thecommunityguide.org/mvoi/AID/sobrietyckpts.html
- Elder RW, Shults RA, Sleet DA, Nichols JL, Zaza S, Thompson RS. Effectiveness of sobriety checkpoints for reducing alcohol-involved crashes. Traffic Injury Prevention 2002;3:266-74.
- Dept of Transportation (US), National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). Traffic Safety Facts 2009: Alcohol-Impaired Driving. Washington (DC): NHTSA; 2010 [cited 2011 Jan 25]. Available at URL: http://www-nrd.nhtsa.dot.gov/Pubs/811385.PDF
- Blincoe L, Seay A, Zaloshnja E, Miller T, Romano E, Luchter S, et al. The Economic Impact of Motor Vehicle Crashes, 2000. Washington (DC): Dept of Transportation (US), National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA); 2002.
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